Now, inspired by the care his beloved wife of almost 46 years received during her treatment, her husband Bill plans to take on his own mountain challenge on his 70th birthday to help other cancer patients.
Bill will strap on his hiking boots on the morning of his milestone birthday on October 25 to climb one of Kerry’s 3,000-foot peaks — the imposing Mount Brandon on the Dingle Peninsula — from the more difficult Faha side.
And every cent he raises will go to the ACT patient comfort fund at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
The ACT charity, a voluntary-run organisation in Cork, offers practical supports to cancer patients.
It fundraises for cancer treatment equipment, helps pay for refurbishment and redecorating of waiting rooms and wards where cancer patients spend most of their time, and contributes to cancer research projects.
But Phyllis said it was ACT’s patient comfort fund which made an enormous difference to her and her family as she fought cancer.
Diagnosed two-and-a-half years ago, Phyllis spent almost two years undergoing extensive chemotherapy before embarking on radiation treatment in CUH’s Dunmanway Ward.
“It was horrific and frightening at the time of the diagnosis because I was always very healthy,” she said.
Like other cancer patients, she had to spend several hours, sometimes up to four days a week, hooked up to a drip in the ward. Patients are confined to the ward and can’t visit the hospital canteen for food.
Bill often faced a hefty parking fee while maintaining a vigil by her side.
However, volunteers with ACT’s patient comfort fund deliver teas, coffees, snacks, soups and sandwiches to the ward, and the fund also helps with the parking fees.
“The care and attention I got in CUH, and in the Dunmanway Ward, was amazing,” Phyllis said.
“But I was blown away by the patient comfort fund — that people would come around like that and help the patients.
“It was especially beneficial for patients who had travelled long distances from all over Munster. Many would have left early in the morning, and wouldn’t get home until late.
“They wouldn’t get a bite to eat all day only for the fund. When I finished treatment, I said we have to do something for these people.”
She was ultimately given the all-clear and the Blackpool-based couple, who have four adopted children, and who have fundraised for various charities over the years, turned their attention to helping ACT.
They have been organising fundraising car boot sales for some time and now Bill is gearing up to scale Brandon.
“I’ve done it eight times before, but I was much younger,” he said.
“So if I have to crawl on my hands and knees, I’ll get to the top this time.”